Dealing with a criminal charge can be a scary and frustrating experience, especially if you believe you are innocent. If this is your first charge, you probably have no idea how the legal process works, which is why you should immediately hire a criminal lawyer. Your lawyer will help you understand the process and your rights, and every person charged with a crime must have a lawyer. If you cannot afford one, you can use legal aid. Before you rush into using legal aid, there are a few things you should know.
The Purpose Of Legal Aid
Legal aid is a benefit offered through the Canadian government, and it is designed to help people that are financially struggling. When a person does not have a lot of money, he or she may never be able to afford to hire a lawyer for any reason. This can present problems to that person, because most people need legal help from time to time. Without qualified legal help, a person may not have a fair chance in a legal matter, which is why the government offers legal aid.
Because legal aid is in place for people that financially cannot afford lawyers, a person must apply for it and get approved before the office will appoint a lawyer to the person. Qualifying for legal aid is highly dependent on a person's income. If the person's income is too high, he or she will not be able to use this program for services.
If you cannot afford a lawyer and are facing criminal charges, you should consider applying for legal aid. Applying for it cannot hurt anything, and it may help you get appropriate representation for your criminal case.
Legal Aid Is Not Necessarily Free
Legal aid is advertised as a free service, but this is not necessarily true. In fact, if you use legal aid services for your criminal case, you may be obligated to repay the money for the services. The difference is that you will not have to pay it all at once, like you might have to with a criminal defence attorney.
If you hire a criminal lawyer yourself to represent you, the lawyer might only agree to accept the case if you pay a retainer fee. While this amount can vary, it is likely that it will be hundreds of dollars, or more. Using legal aid might require repayment, but you will be able to repay the money in the form of monthly payments. The offices that offer legal aid will not charge interest on the money, though, which is helpful for repaying a debt.
The legal aid office will also work with you to come up with a repayment plan you can afford. They will view your case independently and develop a unique plan that works for you.
The Legal Help Comes From Regular Lawyers
Finally, you may wonder what type of lawyer you will get if you use legal aid for your criminal charge. Most legal aid offices use private lawyers for the services. These lawyers may operate their own practices, but they may also provide services for legal aid.
The lawyers will bill the legal aid office for the services they offer you, but you will not get this bill. You will only get a bill from the legal aid office, which is likely to be less than what the private lawyer charged the legal aid office for the services.
Just because you will get a regular criminal lawyer for your case does not automatically mean the services will be equal. When criminal lawyers offer legal aid services, they earn less money. Because of this, they may not place a lot of focus on the cases they accept through legal aid.
Using legal aid can be handy in some cases, but there are drawbacks to this option. You will not get to choose your lawyer when using legal aid, and you will probably still have to pay for the services you receive. If you can find a way to come up with money, you might be better off looking for a criminal lawyer to hire yourself.